Same sex marriages in Tanzania, What’s the incentive?

25th August 2017


“..The idea of matrimony is no longer sacred

Marriage in Africa has always been somewhat of a brow raising topic to discuss. I know for myself and others – in tune with current affairs, lacy white dresses and flowers are not the first things that come to mind. Especially in the Africa of today, marriage doesn’t necessarily mean safety for a woman. From a physical, sexual and even economic perspective, the idea of matrimony is no longer sacred.

Being a female in most African countries can certainly be a weight on one’s shoulder. So imagine my intrigue when I came across a post about tribeswomen’s in Northern Tanzania taking matters into their own hands. Using long standing traditional law, the women of the Kurya tribe have taken to marrying one another as a means of empowerment within the confines of marriage. Through a custom called: ‘Nyumba Ntombo’ which means the ‘House of women’.

Women marrying women; In Africa sounds a bit far-fetched right? But according to Kurya custom, it’s deemed okay for older, childless women to remarry others of the same sex for the sole purpose of acquiring heirs to land and property on their behalf. As it is by tradition that women cannot do so in their own right.

Tanzanian couple

So why?

My question is why are so many women attracted to such an arrangement? The biggest reason is one that I just touched on; Tanzania, like most African countries, favours land ownership towards men. So in the case of death or a childless union, a woman’s chances of remarrying are very limited. Many elders oppose this for fear of another man suddenly swooping in and laying claim on to something that once belonged to them. The law goes as far as assuring that any children born under these circumstances cannot be claimed by their fathers, and the men in question wholly honour this.

Females fleeing abuse, a group that’s speedily growing as I write this, they are also more likely to be interested in this engagement. Escaping exposure from marital rape and FGM practices which affects at least 200 million African women yearly – marrying from within the same sex offers a form of protection. It also empowers them with freedom of choice; they have the opportunity to choose a partner, male or female, who can safeguard their rights and ensure that they’re not exposed to these dangers. Interestingly this has been something more popular with women of a younger generation with these types of unions making up 15% of the households in the country. It seems that girls are becoming more woke to some of the severely unjust aspects of being a female in the motherland.

Although the feminist in me is itching at the thought of having to go to such lengths, I also have to commend the ingenuity of these women. This is essentially a loophole to traditional customs that not only empower women in their societies but also guarantees security for their families. This is something that will decrease the effect of forced marriages, especially for young girls whilst diminishing domestic and sexual abuse statistics.


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Written by Sukoluhle Hadebe

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1 Comment

  1. @iamgenetics

    Very thought provoking read. Thinking through weighing this information with Christian beliefs / values. Thanks for writing.